Does Democratic Political System Contradict Islam? Interpretation and Reconstruction of Shari'a and Shura
In Western society today, there is a widespread inference that Islam is a religion that is incompatible with democracy. But within Islam, there are various views on the acceptance of democratic political systems. This study seeks the answer to whether Islam is a religion that advocates a fundamentally anti-democratic political system.
The main characteristic of Islam is theocracy that integrates of politics and religion. Islam prevails in its view of the absolute sovereignty of Allah as the highest goal and incompatible with the democracy that the people have sovereignty. Shari'a was given and instituted by Allah and cannot be changed by congresses elected by the people. But other claims are also being suggested. It is argued that Islam and democracy are compatible and that Islam needs democracy.
At present, Islamic political system is divided into a group advocating theocratic political system and another group following modern Islamic political system that embraces democratic political system. Theocracy claims that all sovereignty belongs to Allah. The only legislator is Allah and the Islamic governing agent or Caliph has only the autonomy necessary to enforce and implement Allah's governing law. Mawdudi argues that corrupt current Islamic society is in the era of jahiliyyah. Sayyid Qutub asserts that this jahiliyyah era is a rebellion against Allah's sovereignty. He regards only society that is governed by Shari'a under Allah's sovereignty as a just society. Many Islamic scholars, however, do not see Islam and democracy as essential opposition. They believe that the fundamental value of the Islamic faith is justice and equality, which is compatible with the Western democratic legal value that everyone is equal before the law. The more active the group in accepting Western democracy interprets Shari'a's authority separated from the Quran. Groups passive in acceptance of democracy have interpretations that put more emphasis on religious values in Shari'a. Khalaf- Allah emphasizes the shura system, arguing that the revelation of the Qur'an demands democracy, not the level that allows it. Hence, historical and theological interpretations of Shari'a and shura are key factors in determining Islam's political position.
Most Muslims believe that "Shari'a is the command of Allah and the content of immutability." But another group argues that "Shari'a is only the religious basis of the spirit of law." This group sees Shari'a not as a product of the Quran revelation but as a product of a long history. Their rationale is that the Quran itself is not a book of legal meaning, but an essentially religious and moral book.
The essential question of the Shura system is whether it was an obligation or an exhortation. Khalaf- Allah interprets sura 3: 159 and affirms that shura is a duty and command. Muhammad had obliged the shura system in his life. Rather, it was the dynasties of the Umaiyyads and Abbasids that destroyed the shura system. The shura system is similar in structure to the Western democratic political system of today.
In conclusion, Islam is not in conflict with democratic political systems. Islam and democracy are compatible, and furthermore, Islam is a religion that needs democracy. Modern Muslims must stop the error of linking democracy to Western colonial rule. Muslims must also reexamine their theology and history of losing democratic political systems. Finally, Islam must develop its democratic political system, recognizing that it is consistent with the teachings of the Qur'an and early Muhammad's ruling customs.
Keywords: Islamic Democracy, Shari'a, Shura, Theocracy, Islam Law, Ijtihad, Autocracy.